SEATTLE (AP) - The Apple Cup is rarely this significant.
Sure, the rivalry has gone through plenty of years where either Washington or Washington State had a significant stake in the outcome. But rarely has there been so much riding on this game as there will be Friday when the No. 6 Huskies and the No. 23 Cougars meet for the 109th time.
This is just the sixth time both teams are ranked entering their rivalry week. It's also the first time in 35 years that a shot at the Rose Bowl - at minimum - will be at stake for the winner.
It's a lofty place for both programs and has fans on each side in agreement: this could be the biggest Apple Cup ever.
"These kids have been all in on like every game, so to say, OK, this one's like . I don't know. I just want them to prepare like they have and go over and compete like they have, which I know they will," Washington coach Chris Petersen said Monday. "We know it's like all this hard work kind of comes down to this. But it's really hard for me to say, like, 'OK, now we're really all in on this.' I just think they've really been invested this whole year, every game, and I think that's what you've kind of seen. But it'll be exciting."
It's not as simple as it was 35 years ago when the then-No. 17 Huskies beat the No. 14 Cougars 23-10 in Seattle to claim the Pac-10 title and a spot in the Rose Bowl. The winner on Friday still must win the conference championship game over the Pac-12 South winner to assure themselves of at least a spot in Pasadena.
That 1981 game was the third time both schools were ranked. The other games:
- 2001: No. 16 Huskies 26, No. 9 Cougars 14
- 1997: No. 11 Cougars 41, No. 17 Huskies 35 (win sent Washington State to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1930 season)
- 1972: No. 20 Cougars 27, No. 17 Huskies 10
- 1936: No. 6 Huskies 40, No. 20 Cougars 0
The past two weeks have taken a bit of luster off the meeting.
Washington's loss at home to Southern California and Washington State's setback at Colorado diminished some of the significance.
Washington State (8-3, 7-1 Pac-12) no longer has a path to the Rose Bowl via just a win over the Huskies; the Cougars' only hope for a trip to Pasadena would come through winning the Pac-12 title game.
Washington (10-1, 7-1) lost any wiggle room it had in the College Football Playoff rankings and must beat the Cougars and win the Pac-12 championship game to have a shot at being in the final four.
"I didn't think we played together particularly well," Leach said Monday of the loss to Colorado. "(I) thought we should have played together better. I thought that was the case team-wide."
The beginning of the week wasn't without distractions for the Huskies, who were dealing with the departure of reserve cornerback Darren Gardenhire on Monday. Gardenhire first posted on his Instagram page that he was transferring and Petersen later confirmed that Gardenhire is no longer with the program. Petersen said the decision was a bit of a surprise.
Gardenhire appeared in 11 games and had 13 tackles, one interception and one fumble recovery.
"Difference in philosophy is probably the best way to put it," Petersen said.
Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.
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